In turbulent and unsettled times the gift of peace and mutual kindness is never in short supply from the throne of the Prince of Peace. I’ve edited this article written some years ago – for a time such as this. It helps me to be reminded….
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
Mark records the words of Jesus spoken into a far less sophisticated culture than ours. They also appeared to struggle with anxiety and look for peace in all the wrong places. Jesus promised his disciples a peace beyond understanding and assured them that God, his Father, was quite aware of their needs and would provide for them. He encouraged them to learn from the birds and flowers and ‘see how he nurtures them’; and are you not of greater worth and value? We glance at them for sure, then viewing flowers in a vase and a bird becoming roadkill we splutter unconvinced and troubled, “Yes, but…”
Reflecting on peace and worry it helps to read Philippians. Paul writes as a Roman prisoner; or as he prefers to be known – as an ambassador in chains. In the first chapter he acknowledges that some are preaching about Jesus with mixed motives and questionable agendas. Having stated the situation he shrugs it off and says, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Later he tells us that he’s learned to be content in all circumstances… ‘through him who gives me strength’.
The disciples approach Jesus with the news that someone was driving out demons in his name. They tried to stop him because he was ‘not one of us’. Jesus was infuriatingly unthreatened and unperturbed responding, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” On other occasions the disciples wanted to prevent children from bothering Jesus and he told them to let them come to him. A blind man shouted out for his attention and the disciples fussily told him to keep quiet. Again Jesus disregarded them and ordered them to bring the man to him. When Jesus visited the house of his friends Mary and Martha the sisters got themselves into a disagreement because Mary sat listening to Jesus instead of helping Martha. Martha was indignant and pleaded with Jesus to have Mary help her. Jesus was totally uncooperative, exhorting Martha to cease her well-intentioned ‘bustling’ and chill out with her ‘lazy’ sister.
When Jesus was sailing with the disciples on Galilee he took the opportunity to catch up on sleep. Except a storm blew up (circumstances changed) and the disciples lost it with fear and anxiety. They shook Jesus awake screaming above the wind and the crashing waves, “Don’t you care that we’re terrified?” Jesus certainly didn’t weep with sorrow and beg their forgiveness. Instead he challenged them for their lack of faith and proceeded to calm the storm anyway. Left to himself he probably would have carried on sleeping and allowed the storm play out. When Jesus was preparing the disciples for his eventual departure he promised them the Holy Spirit who would be a Comforter; an Advocate who would teach them as they ‘lived life’. He assured them that the Holy Spirit would be to them what His Father was to Him. In his absence they would not have to live lost as orphans in the world.
Best of all Jesus promised them the gift of a peace that was completely different to the peace the world has to offer. He told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” In contemporary language – “Don’t worry!” On the evening the disciples were locked behind closed doors after the crucifixion – scared out of their minds – he suddenly appears in his resurrection and says, “Peace be with you.”
Peace is a big deal to Jesus. I think it’s because he wants those who follow him to experience peace – not as the world gives, not as tranquillizers enable, not as monetary security purchases. It’s a quality of peace that builds from the inside. Peace is the by-product of knowing the love of God the Father first-hand. We cannot find peace by chasing after ‘it’. We receive peace in the company of Jesus as his Holy Spirit comforts us on the inside. Orphans feel lost and worried. Sons and daughters of the King of kings know they are provided for and are confident in the provision and resources available to them from heaven. Our challenge is to dare to test God’s faithfulness and kindness.
This is not theory? I used to be one of the most nervous and insecure children you could imagine. I was afraid of everything and worried about every aspect of my life for years and years. Gradually as I walked with Jesus the anxiety left; I don’t know how or when exactly, it just did. Then when I decided to abandon our relationship and ‘go it alone’ I rediscovered anger, anxiety, stress, and the weight of self-reliance. I looked for fulfilment on my terms and discovered depression and anti-depressants followed by years of struggle at every level of my life. Finally after years, as with the Prodigal Son, I ‘came to my senses’ and my reconciliation with Jesus and the Father restored a peace that was ‘beyond my understanding’. There were anxious moments along the way but when God came through and proved his faithfulness it made peace a little easier to ‘experience’.
I’m learning to trust and anxiety is not a frequent visitor anymore. How about you? Maybe this week Jesus merely wants to quietly embrace you and whisper ‘peace be with you’ in your ear. Don’t make the mistake of protesting like the disciples, rather allow him to teach you how to walk in peace. If you try to understand the process you’ll never experience it. However if you invite Jesus to love you and you give him access to your heart peace won’t be far behind. In fact joy and hope will squeeze in there too – from the inside out. It’s all paid for by Jesus – which means our responsibility is merely to receive.
The Lord bless you, keep you, make his face shine upon you – and give you his peace.
Contend, take hold, declare, receive, rest….